Un­sung Craig is Hor­nets hero

The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP - By Matt Wright

ABRIL­LIANT goal by Craig Cath­cart sent Wat­ford a point clear at the top of the Cham­pi­onship – and his manager Slav­isa Jokanovic be­lieves he is as im­por­tant as any of his ar­ray of po­tent at­tack­ers.

Birm­ing­ham made Wat­ford work hard for the three points but the game was even­tu­ally de­cided by a fin­ish from Cath­cart that most cen­tre-backs only dream of.

The lead was rarely trou­bled by the Blues but this did noth­ing to soothe the nerves of Hor­nets fans as pro­mo­tion to the Pre­mier League is in sight.

And they were to have the best news of all af­ter the fi­nal whis­tle when they heard of Chris Maguire’s late penalty at Bournemouth that put their side above the Cher­ries in the ta­ble.

Jokanovic said: “The sup­port­ers nor­mally pre­fer other kinds of play­ers, but Craig is an im­por­tant part of our team and an ex­am­ple of how to be a pro­fes­sional foot­baller.

“The play­ers have con­fi­dence with him in the field and it is a plea­sure to watch him.

“Just be­cause he is a de­fender doesn’t mean he doesn’t play a big part on the field.

“This com­pe­ti­tion is very tough and com­pli­cated and we found it dif­fi­cult to win the game, but I must be very happy with our per­for­mance.

“We made many changes in the sec­ond half and af­ter we scored the goal we had more con­trol and my team in­ter­preted very well how we had to fin­ish the game. I be­lieve that we de­served the three points and, like al­ways, we keep go­ing.”

Wat­ford twice came close to open­ing the scor­ing af­ter 20 min­utes when a bril­liant cross­field pass by Ben Wat­son found Troy Deeney, who found his route to goal blocked by Dar­ren Ran­dolph.

The re­bound came out to Matej Vy­dra but he shot against the bar and the same man was to quickly slide an­other chance wide af­ter Deeney played him in.

City keeper Ran­dolph then bravely came out at Deeney’s feet to make a good block as the first half fin­ished goal­less.

The Blues cre­ated the first open­ing af­ter the break when Clay­ton Don­ald­son got in be­hind Gabriele An­gella be­fore his ef­fort from a nar­row an­gle was pushed out by Heurelho Gomes.

The hosts sur­vived this scare and broke the dead­lock af­ter 56 min­utes when a cross from Ikechi Anya – just on as a sub – was bril­liantly hooked in, de­spite the ball be­ing be­hind him, by Cath­cart.

An­gella then had a header from Al­men Abdi’s cor­ner cleared off the line by Stephen Glee­son as Wat­ford looked to make the re­sult safe but Vicarage Road roared on the fi­nal whis­tle.

But Birm­ing­ham boss Gary Rowett was proud of how his side had sti­fled their hosts and made it a ner­vous af­ter­noon for them.

He said: “We don’t feel at the minute that we can play as ex­pan­sive as we would like – we can be at home be­cause our home form is ex­cel­lent.

“But away from home we did it for 35 min­utes against Bournemouth where we caused them a lot of prob­lems, and we couldn’t quite reach those heights here.

“But it was a more con­sis­tent per­for­mance and we made it dif­fi­cult for Wat­ford. We hung on in, we were re­silient, we kept go­ing and just as it looked as though we mak­ing the crowd a lit­tle bit ner­vous we con­ceded a very poor goal from a cor­ner.”

PIC­TURES: Ac­tion Images

NO LOOK­ING, NO WOR­RIES: Craig Cath­cart scores the win­ner for Wat­ford

his goal CHEER: Cath­cart cel­e­brates

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